Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 27, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 27, 2020

On February 27, 1922, the United States Supreme Court released an unanimous decision holding that the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is constitutional. The case, Leser v. Garnett, arose because of a challenge seeking to strike women’s names from the voter rolls in Maryland and asserting:

  • The power to amend the Constitution did not cover this amendment, due to its character.
  • Several states that had ratified the amendment had constitutions that prohibited women from voting, rendering them unable to ratify an amendment to the contrary.
  • The ratifications of Tennessee and West Virginia were invalid, because they were adopted without following the rules of legislative procedure in place in those states.

It might as well have asserted that sleeping on the couch for the rest of the plantiffs’ lives would be cold and uncomfortable.

On February 27, 1962, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy were tried in Albany for charges stemming from a demonstration on the steps of City Hall.

On February 27, 1982, Wayne Williams was convicted in Fulton County Superior Court of murdering two adult males. Atlanta Police later said he was guilty of at least 23 of 29 child murders between 1979 and 1981. Williams was never indicted or tried on the allegations of child murder and maintains his innocence.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp addressed the state’s readiness for a coronavirus outbreak, according to 11Alive.

He said state officials have been in meetings and conference calls “for the last three weeks or so in preparation for the ‘what if.’”

He said they are thinking far ahead and hoping that the day won’t come.

“Hopefully it won’t be much, but if it is, we’ll be ready to respond,” Kemp said.

He added that he was personally on two conference calls with President Donald Trump’s team that included many of the nation’s governors and public health officials, as well.

Kemp praised Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner Kathleen Toomey and said she “is very experienced.” He said Toomey has been in communication with all the county-level partners, which he said is where the response comes from.

“We’ll be ready for whatever comes,” Kemp assured.

From GPB News:

State Sen. Ben Watson, a doctor and chairman of the Georgia Health and Human Services committee, took to the Senate floor to update the General Assembly on the progress of the state’s preparation and concerns of the virus Wednesday morning.

“A facility [at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport], that is in this area that will be used, has been reserved [and] will be used for anyone coming from a high-risk area and they will be quarantined there,” Watson told colleagues.

Watson told legislators Georgia’s health department is communicating twice a day with the CDC for updates and are “all over this.”

Three school districts have addressed their readiness, according to 11Alive.

Atlanta Public Schools said that it is “closely monitoring” developments related to the now-infamous strain of coronavirus known as COVID-19 and taking related concerns seriously.

“District officials will remain in close contact with local, state, and federal agencies,” said Atlanta Public Schools spokesperson Ian Smith in a statement to 11Alive.

“In this case, many of the decisions and plans around quarantines or school closures will be led by the federal government with assistance from state emergency management officials,” the statement said. “We have received guidance from those agencies and are incorporating key components into the District’s emergency management practices.”

The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) issued a statement to 11Alive on Wednesday saying that it is also following state health department guidelines.

“Students, faculty or staff whose family members have traveled from China in the last 14 days do not need to be excluded from school,” the school system said. “Those who have traveled from China in the past 14 days and do have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek medical care, according to DPH.”

As of Wednesday, Feb. 26, there are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus in the state of Georgia.

From the AJC:

Many of the major players trying to contain the outbreak are based here – including Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, who has become the public face of the federal agency’s containment efforts in recent weeks.

Messonnier, who lives in metro Atlanta, said Tuesday she told her family they are not at risk right now but called her children’s school district about what would happen if schools need to close. And while she said it was too early to tell how severe the outbreak will be in the U.S., she recommended businesses make contingency plans for employees to work from home.

If coronavirus comes to Georgia, the state Department of Public Health will lead the charge against it. It said Wednesday it will adapt its detailed pandemic flu plan for a COVID-19 outbreak and that epidemiologists are on call 24/7 to help health care providers evaluate individuals with symptoms.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s office said Wednesday it is “encouraging private employers to review and update, if necessary, work continuity plans.” Metro area school districts began sending out emails to parents, encouraging hand hygiene, coughing into the elbow and staying home if sick.

Curtis Harris, director of the University of Georgia’s Institute for Disaster Management, said hospitals and health care facilities in the state have plans for sudden increases in patients, such as converting offices into treatment space. He said Georgia officials and health care facilities already communicate closely about how to limit outbreaks, including steps as simple as isolating patients with symptoms. Health care organizations and officials in seven Southeastern states did training exercises late last year about how to deal with a U.S. outbreak of Ebola, which has a much higher mortality rate.

Savannah is bracing itself for a coronavirus outbreak, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“There are still no confirmed cases of this illness in Georgia,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, health director for the DPH Coastal Health District, on Wednesday afternoon. “The CDC is rightfully concerned that this thing keeps popping up in different places, and it could pop up here.”

Coastal Health District officials are reviewing pandemic-infection disease plans and keeping updated about COVID-19 developments so that the agency can serve as an effective information conduit for area municipalities, schools, and other public facilities if an outbreak occurs, Davis said. Nonetheless, he urges locals to keep coronavirus infection numbers in perspective, citing that over 10,000 Americans have died from influenza during this winter season alone.

According to Dr. Stephen Thacker, associate chief medical officer for Savannah’s Memorial Health University Medical Center, area residents should not panic about the spread of COVID-19, although it’s highly likely that the coronavirus will spread here within weeks.

“I would say that Savannah’s an at-risk population,” said Thacker, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases. “Areas of tourism have been impacted more.”

Officials at St. Joseph’s/Candler also expressed assurance that their hospital facilities are currently ready to treat COVID-19 patients if the coronavirus spreads to Savannah.

“We screen everybody that comes into the emergency room,” including questions about each patient’s recent travel history, said Rita Allen, a St. Joseph’s/Candler registered nurse and infection preventionist, noting that hospital staff is keeping abreast of which countries have reported confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Georgia ports are expected to be impacted by coronavirus, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to cause many Chinese factories to sit idle and shipping containers to sit empty, the Georgia Ports Authority could start to feel the impact of lower than average shipping volumes by next month, according to a statement released by the GPA on Wednesday, Feb. 26 .

“Although we anticipate overall strong container growth in the month of February, we expect March volumes to be well below budget as a result of the virus, which is likely to impact the global supply chain. We are hopeful the impact will be quickly resolved,” the statement read.

The GPA said while it is too soon to determine the extent to which the coronavirus and its associated impacts on China will affect Georgia’s ports, they are working closely with customers to determine the potential impacts.

China remains Georgia’s largest trading partner with $102 billion worth of goods imported from China in 2019, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s annual Global Trade Summary.

Under the Gold Dome – Legislative Day 20

8:00 AM HOUSE Environmental Quality Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 606 CLOB

8:00 AM GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

TBD SENATE RULES UPON ADJOURNMENT 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE Reeves Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 515 CLOB

1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION 606 CLOB

1:00 PM SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION 450 CAP

1:00 PM SENATE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT – CANCELED 125 CAP

2:00 PM HOUSE Alcohol and Tobacco Subcommittee of Regulated Industries 605 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Port and Local Government Subcommittee of Transportation 506 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE INSURANCE & LABOR 310 CLOB

2:00 PM SENATE FINANCE MEZZ 1

3:00 PM SENATE REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 450 CAP

3:00 PM SENATE SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY – CANCELED MEZZ 1

3:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE 341 CAP

3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS 606 CLOB

3:00 PM HOUSE WORKING GROUP ON CREATIVE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT 403 CAP

4:00 PM SENATE JUDICIARY 307 CLOB

4:00 PM SENATE TRANSPORTATION 310 CLOB

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 316 – Military Spouses; licensed in other states to practice certain professions; obtain a license by endorsement to practice in this state; provide (Substitute) (VM&HS-14th)

SB 320 – Sexual Offender Registration Review Board; sexually dangerous predators who fail to verify or update registration information; provide penalty (PUB SAF-54th)

SB 377 – Inspections; number of required annual elevator inspections; reduce (Substitute) (I&L-25th)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 838 – Law enforcement officers and agencies; Office of Public Safety Officer Support; change the name (PS&HS-Hitchens-161st)

HB 861 – Motor vehicles; commercial carriers; amend certain definitions (MotV-Wiedower-119th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 808 – Alternative ad valorem tax; motor vehicles; revise a definition (Substitute)(Trans-Momtahan-17th)

Structured Rule
HB 378 – Revenue and taxation; collection and remittance of excise taxes on rental motor vehicles by marketplace facilitators that are dealers that facilitate the rental or lease of five or more rental motor vehicles; require (Substitute)(W&M-Williamson-115th)

HB 846 – Revenue and taxation; interest paid on refunds of overpayments of taxes and past due taxes shall be equal to the bank prime loan rate; provide (Substitute)(W&M-Corbett-174th) (Rules Committee Substitute LC 43 1586S)

Governor Brian Kemp and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black announced federal aid availability for damage from Hurricane Michael, according to the Georgia Recorder.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Gov. Brian Kemp formally announced Wednesday that the state is set to receive a $347 million block grant for hard-hit farmers left out of an earlier round of aid. This federal assistance, though, won’t have to be repaid.

“We flew together, we consoled families together, we gasped together, and we prayed together,” Black said to Kemp, who were surrounded by rural lawmakers who have long been fielding calls from desperate farmers back home awaiting help.”

“Hallelujah, today we rejoice together,” Black said.

A three-week enrollment period starts on March 18. Black, whose office will manage the grant program, said he hopes to distribute the funds before the end of spring. The aid is available for timber, dairy, beef, poultry, pecan, and fruit and vegetable growers who suffered losses during the October 2018 storm.

The Georgia Department of Corrections signed a memorandum of agreement with the feds to participate in the 287(g) program, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced a memorandum of understanding has been agreed to between the Georgia Department of Corrections and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to extend the state prison system’s participation in the 287(g) program. The agreement means undocumented residents who enter the state’s prison system will be held and turned over to federal immigration officials for deportation.

“As organized crime continues to threaten the safety of our citizens, this partnership will allow Georgia Correctional Officers to continue to identify and assist in the deportation of cartel members who are using our state as a distribution hub for drugs and weapons,” said Kemp. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Trump Administration and our law enforcement community to enforce the rule of law and keep families safe.”

The 287(g) agreement reached by the state is separate from the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the program. The sheriff’s office has its own agreement with ICE to hold inmates arrested in Gwinnett for the federal agency.

Senate Bill 415 by State Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) would limit some lawsuits, according to AccessWDUN.

Senate Bill 415, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega, would make many changes to civil law in Georgia. It would change the information that could be provided to jurors trying civil cases, make it more difficult to sue landowners for injuries caused by a third party and limit the amount of time someone has to bring a product liability lawsuit, among other provisions.

The bill was heard by a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday. No vote was taken, though Gooch said he’d like to make a few changes in consultation with committee members and bring it back quickly.

Gooch said the bill was needed because Georgia’s civil justice system is “dangerous” for businesses compared with other states. “It’s a first try at trying to turn the ship so to speak and put us in the right direction to be more fair to both parties in a civil trial,” Gooch said.

Georgia State Senator William Ligon (R-White Oak) announced he will not seek reelection, according to The Brunswick News.

For Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, 10 years in the Georgia General Assembly is enough.

Ligon made his feelings officially known shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday: he will not be returning to the Senate for another term representing the 3rd District.

“Aside from the important legislative work that we have been able to accomplish for our district as well as for our state, I have met a lot of fine people throughout our community,” Ligon said. “In addition, I have enjoyed working with my colleagues in the Senate and with those who came alongside me to help champion a cause as citizen lobbyists. I am also grateful for many others who simply encouraged me along the way either with their words or by example or with their prayers.”

“The trust you bestowed upon me was never taken lightly, and I sought to serve in a way that upheld that trust. Now, after a full decade in office, it is time for me to step aside and allow someone else the opportunity to serve our coastal district.”

Former Congressman Max Burns announced he will run for the State Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jesse Stone, according to a press release.

Republican Max Burns announced today that he is seeking the District 23 State Senate seat being vacated by State Senator Jessie Stone [sic]. Burns released the following statement regarding his campaign:

“Having worked in business, taught in the classroom and been an elected official serving our state – I’ve experienced firsthand the greatness Georgia has to offer. I’ve met individuals who dreamed of owning their own business, take a chance on that idea and turn that dream into a reality… creating jobs and giving their employees and their families a better life. I’ve watched young minds work hard and achieve a higher education so that they too can make their dreams come true. And I’ve been given the incredible privilege of serving our state at the U.S Capitol.”

“Lora and I have been truly blessed to witness Georgia work from so many different perspectives. As Georgia grows, challenges emerge, and we need those representing us in Atlanta with the experience to confront these challenges and keep Georgia working. That’s why I am announcing today that I am running for the State Senate in District 23.”

“There is nothing more important we can do than to provide a quality education for our children. That’s why I will take my lifetime commitment to the classroom to the State Senate and advance policies that will empower teachers to teach and allow students to learn. We must keep Georgia the number one state in the nation to do business by investing in infrastructure, like roads, bridges and rural broadband. This creates more jobs and more opportunities for our communities. Agriculture is so very important to this district, and we need a strong leader who understands it and who will advocate for our farmers. And when it comes to the 2nd Amendment and pro-life issues, I have a proven record of protecting our conservative values and way of life.”

State Senators from the Georgia coast oppose offshore energy exploration, according to The Brunswick News.

[A] state House resolution passed in 2019 against energy exploration off the Georgia coast led U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, to reconsider his position and send a letter to the Interior Department asking it to remove the state from its offshore oil and gas leasing plans.

Coastal members of the state Senate hope to capitalize on the success of the House and pass a resolution proclaiming the Senate’s opposition to energy exploration, including seismic airgun testing, in waters off the Georgia coast.

Backed by organizations like the Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Conservation Voters, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, Oceana Georgia, One Hundred Miles and the Surfrider Foundation, the senators for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts held a news conference earlier this week at the Capitol in Atlanta to draw attention to their effort.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Ligon is a sponsor of Senate Resolution 88, “Supporting Georgia’s coastal tourism and fisheries and opposing seismic testing and oil drilling activities off of Georgia’s coast.” Co-sponsors are State Sens. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) and Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur). The non-binding resolution is almost identical to one that passed the house last year, H.R. 48.

Watson also spoke at the press conference, recapping the economic benefits of a coast clean enough for recreation and fisheries.

“The ocean shore-based economy in Georgia benefits the state economy in terms of 24,000 jobs, and nearly $2 billion worth of Georgia’s GDP,” he said. Watson recounted the recent history of offshore drilling policies.

“We’re so pleased that after House Resolution 48 passed last year, Congressman Buddy Carter, who was here earlier today, wrote to the Department of Interior asking we be exempted from the offshore drilling activities,” he said. “This resolution defends a generational investment in these industries by voicing opposition to these plans, so I’ll urge my fellow senators, both Republican and Democrat, to pass this resolution.”

Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside (D) says that legalizing marijuana will funding from criminal gangs, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

[Curtis] Clemons, Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside and State Rep. Donna McLeod (D-Lawrenceville) are continuing to work on a bill to legalize marijuana in hopes that it will take away a source of revenue and power from gangs in the area.

They are hoping to introduce it in the General Assembly before the end of the legislative session this year, but so far it’s been delayed. Whiteside said it is currently being rewritten by judicial clerks and state representatives to change it into a format that fits with Georgia law, as well as to include several provisions.

Whiteside said there have been numerous incidents in Gwinnett County in the past few years of drug deals gone wrong. More recently, there were two or three recent shootings at gas stations involving marijuana in Gwinnett County. He said the bill will help there be less shootings.

And McLeod said that decriminalizing marijuana would also help many of the people from which she gets calls from who say they don’t just want to be able to use marijuana, but need to use it for medicinal purposes.

Local legislation to raise the pay of Valdosta Board of Education members was pulled by its sponsor, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

Albany businessman Ed Newsome is running for the Dougherty County Commission seat held by Lamar Hudgins, who is not running for reelection, according to the Albany Herald.

Andrew Clyde of Athens will run for the 9th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Doug Collins, according to the Gainesville Times.

Clyde, a Republican, is a U.S. Navy veteran and “is running on a platform of limiting government and expanding individual freedoms,” according to his campaign announcement.

Clyde was hit by civil asset forfeiture in 2013, when the Internal Revenue Service confiscated about $940,000 from his gun shop, Clyde Armory. Federal agents ultimately found no issues and returned $900,000 to Clyde.

The City of Rome withdrew from a lawsuit against AirBNB in the wake of tax legislation pending before the Georgia General Assembly, according to the Rome News Tribune.

City Attorney Andy Davis confirmed Wednesday he filed a voluntary dismissal Tuesday of the $5 million suit the city had filed jointly with Cartersville, Tybee Island and Hart County at the end of January.

“There is House Bill 448 pending in the legislature … at this point we thought we would give the legislation the opportunity to work its way through and see how that might develop,” Davis said.

The city sued Airbnb in order to force the San Francisco-based company to comply with tax laws requiring the collection and remittance to the city monies the business calls a “service fee.”

HB 448, currently pending in the House Rules committee, would amend the definition of “innkeeper” and require “lodging facilitators” such as Airbnb and VRBOs to pay the hotel/motel tax currently being collected from traditional accommodation facilities.

Rome has an 8% hotel/motel excise tax. Its ordinance defines “hotel” to mean “any structure or any portion of a structure including any lodginghouse, roominghouse, dormitory, Turkish bath, bachelor hotel, studio hotel, motel, motor hotel, auto court, inn, public club or private club containing guestrooms.”

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs have been demanding the taxes from Airbnb for the past five years, but the company has failed to respond.

Clarke County and the City of Winder will each receive state grants to fund construction of trails, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Athens-Clarke County will get a $550,000 grant to begin a system of blue trails on the Middle and North Oconee Rivers, while the nearby city of Winder will receive a $1 million grant to build a mile-long mixed-use path from the city to Fort Yargo State Park.

The grants are among a nearly $20 million list of 14 grants the state Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday.

The grants are funded with a special sales tax on sporting goods Georgia voters widely approved in November 2018 in the “Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act.”

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